Contact models§

Contacts models describe the constraints that have to be generated for each contact point. Currently, nphysics supports two simple contact models: the signorini model and an approximation of the signorini-coulomb model. By default, the approximate signorini-coulomb contact model SignoriniCoulombPyramid is used. This can be changed by the world.set_contact_model(...) method. Note however that is is strongly recommended to perform this change only before any call to world.step() as changing the contact model during the simulation will cause all the internal solver cache to be cleared, resulting in a potential drop of performance and accuracy for a few frames.

Signorini model§

The goal of the Signorini contact model is to prevent penetrations. Therefore, given two contact points, it ideally ensures:

  1. The existing penetration (if any) will be corrected.
  2. Further movements that would increase penetration will be prevented.

The nphysics implementation of the Signorini contact model is available through the SignoriniModel structure. It also includes handling of restitution which coefficient depends on the materials of the colliders in contact. Given two collider with restitution coefficients set to and , the actual restitution coefficient considered by the SignoriniModel for their contacts will be . Overall, the SignoriniModel will generate a single constraint for each contact.


The Signorini contact model does not handle friction at all.

Signorini-Coulomb model§

The Signorini-Coulomb contact model combines the non-penetration constraint of the aforementioned Signorini model with additional constraints to handle friction. The nphysics implements an approximation of the Coulomb friction model which states that friction forces are restricted to a friction cone. The SignoriniCoulombPyramidModel structure implements friction by approximating the friction cone (left) by a pyramid (right):

Friction cones

In 2D, this pyramidal representation is actually exact since only one friction direction is possible. In 3D however this is an approximation since the boundaries of the friction cone are now polyhedral instead of smooth. The consequence is that the resulting friction force actually applied at the contact point will be stronger than it should in some directions (namely directions that are not collinear with the coordinate axises). Overall, the SignoriniCoulombPyramidModel will generate one constraint for handling both non-penetration and restitution (just like the SignoriniModel) as well as one additional constraint in 2D (or two additional constraints in 3D) for handling friction. This is the contact model used by default by the physics world.

Joint constraints and multibodies Event handling and sensors